Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Favourite (a movie review post)

To say that The Favourite is an odd movie, especially one coming out of Hollywood, and especially one that has Oscar hopes, would be an understatement. It is, in fact, a very odd movie. And extremely brilliant. And, amazingly, historically accurate, at least in the broad strokes. It's historical fiction, so the details have been filled in, but there are amazing bits in the movie that we were surprised to find were actual things that happened. Because, after watching the movie, I think you'd be surprised to find that any of it happened. My initial reaction -- because I didn't know anymore about the history other than that there was a Queen Anne and, vaguely, how she became queen -- was that this was more historical fantasy than historical fiction, so I'm just going to say it again: It is surprisingly historical.

The acting from the three primaries is amazing. I'm not overly familiar with Olivia Colman, but she was great. And she's going to be playing Queen Elizabeth in the new season of The Crown so, now, I'm really looking forward to that. Anne suffered a great many ailments, and Colman made them very believable, including what may have been a stroke at some point during the movie. They never make a thing of it but after a certain point in the film, one side of Anne's face becomes droopy, and I'm so curious as to how they pull that off. Even if it's just a shot of something, the actor still has to perform that way, so it's impressive.

Rachel Weisz was great but, then, she really is always great. She knows how to command a room, and she was the center of virtually every scene she was in. But, then, she is the protagonist. And she knows how to deliver a line. There's one point in particular where she says to Emma Stone's character something along the lines of, "I don't think we're playing the same game." It's brilliant. It's brilliant because Weisz controls that scene even though she could easily have handed that control over to Stone without ever meaning to.

Speaking of Emma Stone, and I like Emma Stone; I think she's great. But, in this, she's surprisingly great. It's one of those moments where you see an actor rise above the level of anything she's done previously, and Stone certainly does that in this movie.

So, yeah, great movie. I actually want to see it again, I think, which is a bit odd for me because, on  the surface, it's not the kind of movie I'm usually interested in. Period pieces and stuff about royalty are not, as they say, my jam. But this movie is intricate and puzzling, and I think there are things I will see on a re-watch that I didn't see the first time through.

Now, having said that, I'm not guaranteeing that you'll like it. It's not your standard fare, and I know a lot of people are put off by things that are even a little bit different, and this one is a lot different. But, you know, if different is your thing, your jam, you should check this out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Roma (a movie review post)

I'm not even sure where to begin talking about this movie. It's one of those movies that seems meaningful, yet it is unclear what that meaning is. It is tragic and, yet, ends full of hope. It's black and white, so it must be important.
Okay, so that last bit is kind of a joke and, yet, not quite. I'm not sure this movie would have worked in color.

What I can say for sure is that Alfonso Cuaron is a writer that I like. At least, he is based on the movies I've seen by him. I loved Gravity (and there is a great in-joke in Roma about Gravity). The Best Director Oscar was very deserved (and I still feel like Sandra Bullock got robbed of Best Actress for that movie (and, no, I didn't see Blue Jasmine, so I don't know if Blanchett deserved the award or not)). Children of Men was also really good. Cuaron writes complex stories that don't always have clear meanings, and I can support that. A story should be engaging and leave the audience thinking. My wife and I have continued to bring Roma up in the weeks since we watched it.

There are really three levels to the movie... Well, there are three levels to the movie that I'm seeing. Maybe there are more, and I'm just missing them.

There's the level of the movie that deals with Cleo and what it's like to be a house servant, one of the lowest people in society. The movie opens with her cleaning up dog shit, which is, of course, a metaphor for her place in society.

Then, there is the family she works for and the lives they live. He's a rich doctor and his wife used to be a biochemist but, of course, she no longer needs to work so doesn't. The contrast between Cleo and the family is, frankly, astounding. The family lives in a huge house which Cleo is constantly cleaning, especially picking up after the children, while Cleo lives in a small room which she shares with the other servant.

All of this against the backdrop of society in general. The movie is set against the drama of a student protest movement that was going on in the early 70s and lead to... well, that would be telling.

On the surface, it seems like a "boring" movie, but it's actually quite fascinating.

Yalitza Aparicio, in her debut, is quite good as Cleo. And Marina de Tavira, as the woman of the household, is good opposite her. The weight of the film rests on the two of them, and they carry it admirably.

It's a good movie. I say that with the full knowledge that the fact that it's in black and white will put many people off of it right from the start, compounded with the fact that it's a personal drama and fairly slow moving most of the time. But for those of you who can sit through it, it's well worth the watch.